by Anya Josephs
You might have heard of Mary Lambert, or maybe not. You’ve probably heard her—she is the woman’s voice in the chorus of Macklemore’s song “Same Love.” I have a lot of complicated feelings about “Same Love.” Although I think the song’s message in favor of same-sex marriage is important, the line “if I were gay I would think hip-hop hates me” is downright false, since hip-hop is a genre with as rich a history of LGBTQ artists as any other. I also sometimes feel like Macklemore uses his privilege as a straight white man to speak over LGBTQ people instead of supporting their voices.
Luckily, Mary Lambert’s beautiful new solo song, for which she’s just released possibly the world’s most adorable video, “She Keeps Me Warm,” shows how the voices and stories of LGBTQ artists can be put front and center.
In an interview with Buzzfeed, Lambert said she “just wanted to provide visibility for a lesbian relationship” after not being able to find one music video that represented a relationship between two women without tokenizing same-sex relationships, showing only “over-sexualized women rolling around in lingerie.”
I’ve written before about how queer women are fetishized and objectified in media. Queer women are often presented in explicitly sexual situations in advertisements, or kissing for shock value at awards shows or on sitcoms.
What Lambert shows in her video is a drastically different view of lesbian relationships—a much more realistic one. The video and lyrics alike are very much about the love and relationship between the singer and the woman she is singing about. Where most depictions of same-sex affection seem to be between three people—two feminine-presenting, conventionally attractive queer women, and the male gaze—Lambert’s video is beautiful because it is so personal. Although her real-life girlfriend isn’t featured in the video, this song is based on their relationship.
And on the subject of using music to support the voices of LGBTQ people, the woman who co-stars in the video, Bryn, is the guitarist for an all-queer, all-female band called Wishbeard. Women are so often led to think we ought to compete against each other, and this goes doubly for minorities—when only a very small number of LGBTQ women ever make it in the arts world, there is an added sense of competition to be this token representation. It’s awesome to see Lambert confront this sense of competition by sharing the spotlight with another queer artist.
She also made the video with an all-queer, all-female crew. This is another way she’s using her success from “Same Love” to support other queer women. Although the women on her crew don’t actually appear in front of the camera, directing, producing, and tech work are amazingly deep kinds of storytelling, as I know from my own experience in theatre. In a culture where women represent only 18% of directors, producers, cinematogrophers and editors in top-grossing films, Lambert’s choice to give women’s experiences (and expertise) center stage is hugely important.
As I mentioned in my earlier article, in the highly-sexualized mass-media images of lesbian affection, almost without exception the women involved are conventionally attractive, feminine, white, and thin. Lambert is a plus-sized woman, and this identity, like being a gay woman, is one that is often under attack. Just as gay women seem to be reduced to sexual objects in objectifying media, “plus-sized bodies…are not allowed to be sexy or romantic,” as Lambert says. Her decision to star in the video herself provides a beautiful example of what a love story with a plus-sized woman in the center can look like. Choosing to co-star was another reinforcement by Lambert of her central idea that “love is universal.”
Although having an all-female crew, showing a plus-sized woman’s body as sexy and beautiful, and depicting a beautiful queer love story are all very political, unlike “Same Love” this is not a song about politics. It is a song about love, like so many others, and that’s just what makes it so unique. It is so rare that media about queer people can depict us as simply people without erasing our queerness. Songs like “Same Love” and Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” are groundbreaking because they address the oppressions queer people face, but “She Keeps Me Warm” is revolutionary in a whole different way. It balances showing the universality of love with representing queer women in a more authentic and moving way than I’ve ever seen in the media before.
In interviews, Lambert stresses that she wants all women to know that there is “beauty in themselves and their bodies are not a warground.” It is exactly that beautiful message that her video conveys. She shows an inherently beautiful love story in “She Keeps Me Warm,” a beauty that does not require validation from anyone, that allows queer stories to exist in the mainstream without being about queerness, and that is truly inspiring. It is this kind of media I hope we will see more of soon, from Lambert and from other artists, because it is this kind of media that can make a better world.